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My Return to Shanghai

by Lola Roberts

On July 1st, 2013, I discovered the answer to one of my life’s greatest mysteries. It was a hot sunny day in Shanghai, China, and I will never forget what happened that day no matter how much I try. July 1, 2013, may always remain one of the most important days in my life.

The first thing my mom and I did was visit the orphanage I stayed in until I was fifteen months old. The orphanage had about 600 kids, most of them sick boys. My mom and I took advantage of the opportunity to play with some of the children. Whenever we walked into a room the kids would yell, “媽媽!” which means “mom” in English.

Right before we left the orphanage I received a gift. The gift was a picture of me when I was first brought to the orphanage. In addition, I also learned that when I was brought to the orphanage I had honey, powdered milk and a red piece of paper with me. The honey was a gift to the people who would take care of me. The red piece of paper told me that I was born in a hospital. The day is still unclear because the date is by the Chinese lunar calendar and it changes every year. I was happy to know that I was born in a hospital, it could open more doors for the future. After the orphanage our guide took my mom and I to where I was originally found. It is now a cargo shipment place.

After seeing the original place I was left, my mom and I went to meet the people who found me. The people lived in a broken down house. The building blocks were falling apart. When we first met the people it was an awkward silence. My mom and I didn’t know what to say, and anything we did say would not be understood, because they didn’t speak English. The names of the people that found me were Mr. and Ms. Lu. They were the first ones who broke the silence.

They started telling me about the day they found me. It was a rainy night. Mr. Lu was watching TV and Ms. Lu was sleeping. Mr. Lu thought he heard a cat outside. He walked outside to see what was making the sound. To his surprise it was a baby in a basket. He brought me into the house and went to wake his wife because he had no idea what to do with me. Ms. Lu made me a bottle with the milk powder while Mr. Lu called the police. The police told them that they would send someone over in them morning. Mr. Lu told us that as soon as he brought me into the house I stopped crying. The next day they brought me to the police station. Ms. Lu told us that she took care of me until the police took me and brought me to the orphanage. I was relieved to finally have found one of the missing puzzle pieces about my life. Now I had one less thing to wonder about.

Mr. Gongzhan Wu, from Gladney Center for Adoption, set up this trip for me. He told my mom and me that we should bring gifts for the people to say thank you. My mom got Ms. Lu a Tiffany & Co. necklace and Mr. Lu a NYC sweatshirt. When we put the Tiffany & Co. necklace on the table, Ms. Lu was flabbergasted. She had a look on her face that I could never forget. She was terrified. She opened the gift and as soon as she saw the necklace, she stuffed it back in the bag and looked at her husband. They started to say that they could not accept the gifts because they were too expensive. Another reason was because if they accepted the gifts then the deed they did that day would not make sense. In China, a gift repays someone for their good deed. Mr. and Ms. Lu couldn’t accept the gift because they didn’t do a good deed, they did what was right. We told them then they should give the gift to their daughter, but they replied with, “實在是太昂貴” which translated to, it is too expensive. So after a ten minutes of arguing, they kept the gift. Not the necklace though. They kept the empty box that held the Tiffany & Co. necklace.

Afterwards, we took a few pictures to remember this moment, then we left, and that was the end of the day. After the experience, I don’t think I could take any more in. No more grey sky and no more smoggy views. I was done for that day and basically done with China.

I hope when I am older and learn to speak Chinese I will go and visit them again and see if I could get a little more information out of those people. I am now left with the question, what else do they know about my past that they didn’t tell me before?


Left: Lola's referral photo.

Below: the note found with Lola, saying she was born at 10:30 PM on July 13th in the lunar year 1998.